By Jay W., Vanguard Careers Blog

 

Philly summers can be downright oppressive when the temperature and humidity start their annual ascent, but this is the time when our community garden volunteers shine! Year after year they return to the beds to nurture their crops—all in the name of service to the community.

In March of 2020, our crew were sent home due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which meant the vast majority of our volunteers would not be permitted to come to the on-campus garden. The volunteers were heartbroken to scale back operations when the need for nutrition was greater than ever. The Vanguard Community Garden typically contributes thousands of pounds of fresh, organic produce to local food pantries to fight food insecurity. How could we keep the garden running?

Welcome Homegrown Heroes!

A skeleton crew kept the garden going last year, but when we realized the pandemic would continue into 2021 (another growing season), we knew we needed to do more. Since many of our volunteers have their own gardens at home, we decided to ask whether crew would be willing to dedicate a portion of their gardens to raise crops for the cause. We offered to supply plants, seeds, fertilizer, etc. so they could grow vegetables in their own gardens and deliver the harvest to local food pantries in their own neighborhoods. We even encouraged crew without gardens to participate—with a porch or patio that gets some sun, you could also try your hand at farming! And so, “Homegrown Heroes” was born!

The program has been a great success so far. We created an online community for crew to swap stories, successes, failures, questions, and pictures of their gardens. We’re seeing photos of bags of fresh produce delivered to pantries we hadn’t worked with previously. Participants are exchanging information and tips, and it’s exciting to see our crew volunteers embrace this challenge while simultaneously making the program more visible, inclusive, and more productive with even greater harvest totals!

None of this would have been possible without the support of our partners at Trellis for Tomorrow, a non-profit dedicated to fighting local hunger through community garden programs. While our volunteers are working the home-front, our friends at Trellis have planted high-yielding, low-maintenance crops such as potatoes and carrots in our campus garden beds. We are projecting bed yields to rival or even surpass our highest totals this year!

I could not be prouder to be a member of the community garden team. I’m always amazed, but never surprised, at the creativity and dedication Vanguard crew put into the many volunteering opportunities available to us. Our “Homegrown Heroes” are doing more than just giving back to the community, they are spreading the spirit of giving and growing to all Vanguard crew! So, a big “shout-out” to my fellow volunteers! Keep up the good work and keep the good vibes flowing!

Please visit the original story at Vanguard’s Career Blog.